Clay County officials lay out plans to keep schools safe

Law enforcement has been meeting with each school’s staff to formulate individual plans; district also has been working to retrofit every campus

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – Ahead of the new school year, Clay County officials on Monday laid out their plans to keep students safe and protect against mass shootings.

Law enforcement met Monday at the Clay County Emergency Operations Center with staff from Tynes Elementary School in Middleburg about their active shooter plan.

Law enforcement has been meeting with staff from every school in the county throughout the summer. Each school has a different layout, so law enforcement is working with schools individually to lay out their active shooter plans.

In addition, Clay County District Schools has been working to retrofit each school in the county. That means that there’s only one way in and one way out of any school and that there are cameras pointed at that entrance. Orange Park High School is currently being retrofitted before students return, and once it’s done, every school in the country will be only accessible one way.

“Every school has a single point of entry. At this point, our last school is being retrofitted at this second,” Superintendent David Broskie said at a news conference Monday at the county’s emergency operations headquarters. “One of the challenges in the state of Florida, because we have such great weather, is campuses are spread out. It’s a different design than other parts of the country, where it’s usually a single building, and therefore, much easier to have a single point of entry. So all of our buildings are fenced off in such a way where the only way to go is one way.”

News4JAX on Monday stopped by numerous schools around Clay County to see what’s been done. At Thunderbolt Elementary School in Fleming Island, there’s fencing on all sides or locked gates in front of doors — only one way in. Clay High School was mostly the same, and when News4JAX stopped by Charles Bennett Elementary School in Green Cove Springs, there was a similar setup.

The county has spent the last couple of years installing extra fencing and locked doors along with surveillance cameras at every school. Clay County District Schools Police Department Chief Kenneth Wagner told News4JAX that every entrance is checked daily to make sure it’s secure.

Parents and grandparents told News4JAX that this is a critical issue for them.

“It’s very important. I think they need to upgrade it, yes, so people can’t just walk in off the street into schools,” said grandmother Meinyoa Cook. “It’s unsafe for the children.”

Clay County leaders on Monday laid out their plans to keep schools secure and safe.

News4JAX also asked law enforcement about the chain of command, which was criticized following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

“So it’s important, as law enforcement, to practice active shooter tactics, which most agencies across the country practice, and in Clay County, we do a pretty good job of,” Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said at Monday’s news conference. “The missing piece has often active shooter incident management. and we have made a very deliberate effort over the past few years to engage in active shooter incident management training together.”

A big push by Clay County has been for parents to download the SaferWatch app. That’s how the county will put out alerts about any incidents at a school and also provide information about how to pick up children during an emergency.

The first day of school in Clay County is Aug. 10.

About the Author:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.